The Xbox advantage that goes unmentioned - Input Lag

When discussing gaming tech there are few things more important IMO than input lag. This is literally about the speed with which you interact with a game. You hold a controller and send inputs to the game, and then it reacts to your inputs on screen. The faster this feedback loop becomes the better a game feels to play. This is one of the many reasons why frame rates are so important. The higher the frame rate the lower the input lag can go.

But a lot of people are unaware of the fact that the Xbox ecosystem has input lag advantages in a great number of games. The main reason for this is due to differences in the development kit for the different consoles. While I do not have a deep understanding of these differences, the simple version is that for whatever reasons the Playstation development kits favor triple buffer rendering. This adds extra latency into the pipeline.

John from Digital Foundry actually made a point of mentioning this in a video about Mega Man 11 over 2 years ago. Here a link to his specific comments.

The best part about this conversation is that you can actually test this out yourself if you have a PS4/PS5 and an Xbox. You can download the demo version of Mega Man 11 right now and see if you can notice the difference. I certainly can. But I’ve also noticed this in other games. Deal Cells for example is a game I bought on PS4, but then it came to Game Pass on Xbox, and once again I can tell the Xbox version feels more responsive. It just feels better to play.

And I say all of this before we even get to the fact that Microsoft have touted the work they’ve done to reduce input lag with the Series X/S consoles. The controller updates even faster than before, and they’ve added additional tweaks to their development kits to allow developers to lower input lag even further. Sony have made absolutely no claims about the PS5 and the Dualsense improving input lag for what it’s worth.

So, go ahead and check out Mega Man 11 if you want to, and I think this is something that should be discussed more. Frankly, I don’t understand why Digital Foundry don’t make this a bigger focus of multiplatform comparisons. It’s very noticeable to people who pay attention to details, like the DF audience, and it actually makes games feel better to play, so why wouldn’t it be worth mentioning in every DF comparison? They basically let the cat out of the bag in a single video two years ago and then never mentioned it again. IMO, after having experienced some games on both Playstation and Xbox, and feeling the difference in response, I think it’s something that needs to be brought up more often.

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And it’s getting even better on SX|S

The increase response in gears 5 is immediately noticeable and you also can test by switching between the new and old controllers that were still not updated to support DLI.

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Does the Elite Series 2 Controller support DLI?

Not yet. Sometime during 2021 they will have firmware updates for all existing Xbox One controllers to support DLI. That will be good considering the improvements it brings as shown in Gears 5.

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Also, here’s the Xbox Wire blog all about latency.

Some interesting snippets:

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OMG I have been playing series x with my Elite 2 the whole time :smile:

Will try the new controller and see if I can detect a difference. But from what I understand, wired is the fastest way to play. Hmm

You know why.

But they made a point of mentioning it that one time. That’s what is so weird about it. They acknowledged it made Mega Man 11 feel better to play, and even stated this is the case for other games, but then decided to never mention it again.

I’m sure some Playstation fanboys would be upset if they learned the Xbox had an input lag advantage in most games, but the numbers don’t lie. There would be no reason to be upset with Digital Foundry if they started talking about this more.

Yeah it is weird, I don’t watch their stuff anymore but I’m not surprised.

Never done a comparison across platforms but can confirm what you say about Dead Cells, holy crap does it feel nice to control.

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That’s a good question and it could boil down to it being not a discernable difference like it was with MM11. It hasn’t been focused on in most of their videos in the past generation and my guess is that because the differences aren’t perceptible in most of the previous games.

That said, it could also be an oversight and they could notice a difference if they paid attention to it? Perhaps it is different this time around?

I’ve wondered about this for years when I started using MIDI and the first thing you’d have to do is try to get your latency down to sub-10ms. My setup was never the greatest (still isn’t, heh) and I’m happy with 12-15ms. But folks nowadays are working with 6-8ms and that blows my mind.

MS addressing this is yet another reason why I’d like to visit my current backlog on the Series X/S rather than on my One.

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Street Fighter 4 was played competitively on Xbox 360 precisely because of this reason.

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Great thread! I want to learn more about the reduced input lag of SX but sadly none of the tech sites covered this yet. I guess we will see a video about this from Linneman at some point in the future since he always comments on how the games feel at higher frame-rates.

It’ll be really interesting to see some results or read some impressions on how games like Sekiro, Ninja Gaiden Black/2, Crash 4, DOOM Eternal, Titanfall 2, Metro Exodus feel on the Series X/S when compared to the One consoles.

@Thanathorn Really curious to see how this goes this generation with Street Fighter 6 (which will hopefully be a multiplatform release).

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These improvements have definitely been overlooked. I know Xbox has talked about it but the general coverage from the get go by media was thin. I’ve shelved my Elite 2 for the most part waiting for the firmware update and have went to the new base controllers because of this feature.

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I know there have improvements to the wireless latency of the new controllers. Does anyone know if there have been improvements made for wired connections as well?

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The quote above includes the following

“While wireless is better than ever, when a controller is wired, the team implemented the ultimate solution: as soon as a digital state changes, the data gets transmitted.”

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I knew it!

When I had picked my XSX up and started using the new controller I noticed the difference immediately. Especially once the batteries were empty and I started using my Elite V2 again. Absolutely love the feel of the controller and it’s hard to put it down to use another one, but I do notice that snappy input lag.

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It was immediately noticable the second I played Halo 5 mp on Series X.

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I’m looking forward to the Elite 2 getting the firmware upgrade for this

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This is about a lot more than just the firmware in the controllers. The actual development kit of the Xbox steers developers towards double buffering, which means a lower input lag starting point. Then you have the Xbox controllers also helping to bring it down further.

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